BL Walk 4.                Chapel en le Frith to Whaley Bridge

The Route:    Chapel station, Combs village, Spire Hollins, Long Lane, Elnor Lane Farm, Shallcross, High Peak Trail, Whaley Bridge station

Starting point:        Chapel en le Frith station. (G.R. SK 055794)

Distance:     5 miles (8 km)

Ascent:        570 feet (174 metres)

Map:           OS Outdoor Leisure No. 24, The White Peak (except for the last few yards in Whaley Bridge for which, theoretically, you’d need OL1 The Dark Peak)

How to get there:  Daily train service to Chapel en le Frith and Whaley Bridge from Manchester, Stockport and Buxton.

Chapel Station
Photo by Martin Smith

The Walk:     From Chapel station go to the level crossing and follow the path on the north side of the railway line until it reaches the driveway to Bank Hall.  Cross the drive and continue on the path alongside the railway, with improving views to the right over to Eccles Pike, Chinley Churn and the outliers of Kinder.  Combs Reservoir is ahead and just to the right, whilst Ladder Hill is prominent, with its distinguishing television mast.  As you draw alongside Owlgreave Farm, there is a bridge over the railway and the path swings left to cross this. 

The would be a good spot for taking photos of the trains and it must have been quite a spectacular sight in steam days as the locomotives would be working flat out climbing the bank towards Chapel en le Frith.  Even now, the diesel multiple units on the line have to work hard on this stretch, which is a steady climb all the way from Whaley Bridge to Chapel.

Once over the bridge, turn right, through a gate and continue alongside the railway.  Ignore the stile on the left and continue ahead, soon dropping down to the road into Combs village.  Here go left.
At the Beehive pub, turn right and, resisting the temptations of the hostelry, go along the lane which forks in about 300 yards.  Keep right here and commence the climb towards Spire Hollins.  Keep on the lane, which enjoys a brief flirtation with the railway line again before heading off up the hill. 
As you climb there is an increasingly good view to the left to Castle Naze and Combs Edge, both of which are visited by other walks in this series.

At Spire Hollins Farm there is a signpost for a footpath on the right.  If you don’t want to climb any further, it is possible to turn right here and follow a lower path, which will eventually lead you to Shallcross.  The recommended route continues up the lane for a further 250 yards to a T junction.  Here you join Long Lane.  Turn right.  Long Lane is  a rough track, bounded by dry stone walls and the first bit is quite steep and sunken in a hollow-way.  It is also a favoured route for off-road motor cyclists, quite legitimately in this case.

Soon you emerge from the hollow-way and are rewarded with a magnificent view eastwards over Combs Reservoir.  It is even possible to pick out Mam Tor and Rushup.  Continue along the lane, noting that, unfortunately, Ladder Hill is not access land.  Pity, because the view from there would be stunning.
The lane levels out and the views widen to encompass Whaley Bridge and the lower Goyt valley, right through to Greater Manchester.

All too soon this high level stroll ends and the track begins to descend.  As it does so, you once again enter a hollow-way, surrounded by birch woodland. When you emerge from the hollow-way you join the former Roman Road from Buxton.

There is a view ahead to the hills at the back of Taxal.  Note the obvious cleft in the ridge ahead.  A glace at the map will show that paths converge on this gap to pass over Taxal Moor towards Kettleshulme.

Go right at the road.

Before carrying on down the hill, look over the wall on the left hand side of the road.  Below, you will see Elnor Lane and beyond that another double line of walls.  This is the course of the former Cromford and High Peak Railway.  The C&HPR was one of the earliest railways in England, being built in 1831.  It used canal technology; long, level stretches punctuated by steep, rope worked inclines.  At this point in its journey across Derbyshire it is on a level stretch, but about to embark on the lengthy Shallcross incline; 817 yards (747 metres) at 1:10.5.  This incline and the line from Shallcross yard to Ladmanlow (Buxton) was closed in 1892 when a link was put in from Buxton station to Parsley Hay rendering the northern part of the C&HP redundant.  Derbyshire County Council are making the incline useable for walkers, but work has not started on this top section (as at end May 2012). When this work is completed, the rest of this walk description will be altered.

Walk down the Roman Road passing Elnor Lane Farm and thus join Elnor Lane.  For such a minor road, this sees an appreciable amount of traffic so take care.

If you particularly want to see the old C&HP route, there is a footpath round the bottom side of Elnor Lane Farm, then over Elnor Lane and so onto the old track bed.  The trackbed to the right is accessible, though not open to the public yet.  In any case, after about 200 yards it is so heavily overgrown as to be impassable.  Can’t be recommended.  Wait until the county council has opened it up properly.

As you walk down towards Whaley Bridge you’ll notice a footpath sign on your right.  This is the point at which the alternative route from Spire Hollins rejoins.  To the left, a short road, Shallcross Lane, leads to the incline again, and from here the County Council has done a grand job of opening it up for walkers, bikes and horses as the Shallcross Incline Greenway. There’s a very informative sign at the top of the new path.  Well worth reading.  Turn right and descend the incline, at first on a slightly new alignment to avoid houses and then on the old formation. 

At the bottom of the incline, turn left along Shallcross Mill Road until you reach some old industrial buildings.  All this was once part of Shallcross goods yard.  To the right are two footpaths alongside a concrete wall, separated from each other by a fence.  Keep on the right hand path, which is the former railway line and so pass under Shallcross “tunnel” which carried the railway under the main road.  Keep on this path until you reach a fence and the route turns sharp left.

The overgrown jungle ahead is the course of the old railway. This section closed in the late 1960’s. Just beyond this point the original route reached the top of the final incline, down to Whaley Bridge canal wharf and the terminus of the C&HP.  When the Whaley Bridge to Buxton line was built in the 1860’s it crossed over the old C&HP by a very low bridge, that was impassable to locomotives so the final section of the old line, including the incline, was always horse worked until its closure in 1952.  In around 1862, a link was put in to join the C&HP to the new Buxton line just east of Whaley Bridge station and the bridge carrying the existing railway line over the A5004 is wide enough for three tracks.

Go down the narrow ginnel, crossing over a small stream.  This is no ordinary brook, but is the canal feeder from Combs Reservoir.  At the main road, turn right, passing the Cock Inn on your right.  Continue on the main road, under the railway bridge, noting its width, and then along the main street to the railway station.